When Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate launched back in 2013, I thought we were done with this particular installment. However, I was wrong. Team Ninja has opted to bring the solid fighter to new consoles and as such, they’ve once again updated and renamed the game: Now it’s Dead or Alive 5: Last Round and despite being a pretty clear cash grab – at least in part – it remains a wildly entertaining, well-rounded fighter with plenty of new content. Unfortunately, the new content is underwhelming and long-time followers might be better off waiting for the next real installment.
The graphics really are better than ever, though, and they do cement the best possible version yet of DoA5. Fantastic animations, coupled with wonderfully smooth curves and detailing, make Last Round a visual feast for the eyes (and the libido, in some cases). This really is the best-looking DoA iteration yet; even the lighting appears to be better than it was in Ultimate. Super fluid, highly sexualized visuals have always been a staple of this series; the developers simply bring that winning formula to a new level. Even the new outfits are exceedingly well designed and I’ve always appreciated the graphical ebb and flow that never skips a beat.
The sound is equally impressive, thanks to a good soundtrack and those patented effects. I dunno; I just always thought the combat effects in DoA were a little different than those in any other fighter. There’s something about this cartoon-y yet effective audio presentation that always made me smile. Sure, the voices are borderline painful but this is a fighting game…the voices are always amateur-ville. It actually wouldn’t feel like DoA if we had professional actors in there. Anyway, from a technical standpoint, everything about Last Round excels. There’s nothing too new here, despite that aforementioned visual touch-up, but we didn’t have much to complain about in the first place, right?
Yeah, this is DoA. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just not the advanced, next-level DoA we expect to see with the official sixth installment. The physics and mechanics are about the same, the characters and arenas are familiar, and the stories are – as always – just plain silly. We do get plenty of costumes, however, which is a bonus for those who like to play dress-up. You can change the hairstyles of your favorite characters, for instance, and you can even toss on a few accessories. The cool part is that these costumes actually get dirty during a match; another example of the game’s visual prowess. If the arena is especially filthy and the match is lengthy, expect your costume to bear the scars of war.
Now, one could argue about the “bouncy” nature of DoA forever. Seriously, this is a debate that doesn’t really have an end. Those who are offended will always be offended and Team Ninja sticks to their “it’s just fantasy” explanation, which of course is accurate. Let’s not forget that men are abnormally proportioned in such games as well. At any rate, I think it’s important to note that the “bounciness” of the ladies in Last Round is actually quite authentic. Well, it’s authentic if we accept that such women could possibly exist, and they’d actually be able to pull off such moves in high heels. At least their chests aren’t exaggerated; they’re not bouncing off the freakin’ screen, as they’ve been known to do.
It’s clear that more effort was expended in regards to chest physics so yeah, we end up with the most realistic…uh…bouncy-bouncy yet. But in regards to the stuff that actually matters, let’s just say that this updated version doesn’t offer a plethora of goodly extras. We get a few bonuses, of course, but nothing too extravagant. Basically, this is Ultimate with some extras, including new fighters Raidou and Honoka. And actually, if you really want to get technical, Honoka is the only true new character, as Raidou was the final boss in the very first Dead or Alive (released back in 1996). There are 34 characters with which to experiment but too many fighters seem like clones of others.
While they didn’t do much of anything to the core gameplay, the designers did iron out a few kinks. Otherwise, it’s still the same ol’ rock-paper-scissors mechanic that focuses heavily on counters, throws, defensive holds, and the like. I’ve always loved this style of fighting because it forces you to pay close attention to your opponent; it’s not all about reaction but much of your strategy revolves around your foe’s tactics. You can still pitch hapless opponents into environmental obstructions, which results in some pretty zany situations. A lot of it is completely over-the-top (no human survives any of it) but that’s sorta the point. Like I said above, DoA is about the fantasy.
Because of those flashy environmental impacts and due to the touching up of the effects, this is the most attractive, dynamic DoA yet. I mentioned this in talking about the graphics above but it’s important to note that visuals have a direct impact on the gameplay. If we implemented such environmental catastrophes back in the ’96 title, would it have had the same visceral impact? Of course not. And the more you play, the more you want to take advantage of each arena, striving for new methods of inflicting ridiculous amounts of pain. It also adds to the variety of the combat itself, which is something most fighting fans will enjoy.
Now, one could argue that this is a cash grab because Team Ninja keeps using the same ol’ assets and issuing a fresh coat of paint. Really, it probably should’ve ended with Ultimate; the fans would’ve waited for Dead or Alive 6, specifically made for new consoles. You just don’t get a lot of extra content for your $40 this time around. A couple new characters and a bunch of new cosmetic and customization options don’t really amount to much, especially if you’ve already played Ultimate. On the other hand, if you’ve never played DoA5 at all, there’s no reason at all for you to ignore this latest update. It is an update; it just isn’t packed with new stuff, and it doesn’t boast a significant upgrade.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is indeed the definitive version of the original DoA5. That much is obvious. It looks better than ever – absolutely the prettiest DoA to date – and the gameplay is just as solid and challenging. You get a lot of costumes and 34 fighters are more than enough, even though there are some similarities between the characters. The minor touch-ups are appreciated but again, they’re not major. The bottom line is simple: If you already own the Ultimate edition, don’t bother with Last Round unless you’re a confirmed DoA aficionado and want that up-tick in graphics, along with a bunch of new costumes. If you’ve never had the pleasure of DoA5, this is the one to get.
The Good: Beautiful, refined visuals; the best-looking DoA thus far. Great visual and audio effects. Environmental bust-ups are great fun and a joy to behold. Same fantastic fighting core, with a huge roster. Better combat and “bouncy” physics.
The Bad: Not a lot of extra content. Not enough diversity among the characters. Feels too much like a cash grab.
The Ugly: “Oh, it’s way too pretty to be ‘ugly.’”